I went to the Institute of Fundraising (IOF) ‘s National Convention for the first time this week- it’s the final day today.
I just wanted to share with you some of my impressions and things that I learned. My first job in the charity sector, around five years ago, was in a fundraising role. Typically for a small charity, I was not only the entire Fundraising department but I also had Communications and Development to look after as well. Back then I rarely had the opportunity to meet other fundraisers, much less fundraising specialists. When I was in a room of fundraisers for the first time I wondered if they would have secret handshakes or esoteric rituals that I would not be party to. Luckily they didn’t and I have always found fundraisers to be some of the most passionate, driven and talented people in the charity sector. Fundraising can be a tough job and an unloved role at times. Fundraisers can feel that they raise the money, everyone else in the charity spends it and no-one thinks about where it is coming from or how hard it is to get. The IOF has launched a ‘Proud to be a Fundraiser’ campaign which will hopefully go some way to correcting this.
Even before I had arrived at the Convention I had been impressed with two things. Firstly I loved the nifty little conference app which I downloaded to my new phone. Second, I thought it was great that I was able to watch one of the opening speeches via a live feed before I left home.
Upon picking up my Convention bag (a detail of which is in the photo above) I was very pleased to see that it was stuffed full of various freebies including a #Proudtobeafundraiser mug. I was amused to read in the conference programme that there was a different wifi login depending on what part of the venue you were in- which made me think it must be a pretty big building! I also found a list of all of the volunteers involved in putting Convention together- it must have taken a great deal of work.
Next, I headed over to my first session, called ‘What Fundraisers Can Learn From Rappers’. A little known fact about me is that I am a bit of a rap fan.
After the entrance of presenters Rob Mosley and James Barker to music, I knew I was going to enjoy it. They did a great job of showing the ways in which rappers use content, the messages that they put out there and how this relates to charity fundraising campaigns!
The presentation included this brilliant data about how some rappers have a better vocabulary than Shakespeare! It also introduced me to some great rappers that were new to me- how many people do you know who can do this, for example?
It was the perfect riposte to people who think that all rap is about crime and money- here’s one great counter-example that was given:
I spoke on a panel called ‘Getting on Board: Why fundraisers should be Trustees’, with Dorothy Dalton, Paul Marvell, Olga Johnson and Mike Wade. I was amazed to discover that Mike has four Trusteeships- now that is a busy man! We spoke about why more fundraisers should become Trustees- reasons like ‘charities would sell their own grandmother to have your skills on their Board’ and spoke about both the pleasures and the more challenging aspects of being Trustees. It was great to see some really high-calibre people in the audience who were interested in becoming Trustees themselves.
I was then lucky enough to have been invited to drinks and a debate: ‘Fundraising 2015: Looking Ahead’ on the 23rd floor of the venue. The view was quite something (see photo below).
The peerless Mark Astarita, Chair of the IOF, introduced the speakers and gave us ‘Mark’s Manifesto’ for what he thinks the Government should do about fundraising for charities. Mark had just been voted the most influential person in fundraising, for the third year running.
Lord Phillips spoke next, representing the Liberal Democrats. I’ve never heard him speak before and thought he was brilliant. I particularly liked his points about how so much legislation is created but it is incredibly rare for legislation to be removed. Thanks to Caron Bradshaw for introducing me to him at the end- I’ll be sending him a paper about Young Charity Trustees!
Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, rounded things off. I always enjoy listening to him speak- as well as being entertaining he demonstrates a deep understanding of the sector. He mentioned a statistic about how, when questioned, members of the public are split 50:50 in wanting to give their money to either big, national or small, local charities- but that when it comes to actual behaviour they tend to give their money to the bigger ones. He indicated his desire to get more people to donate to small charities, I nearly cheered!
I left the Convention feeling re-inspired about fundraising and with my head buzzing with new ideas. Please check out the hashtag #iofnc on Twitter if you’d like to find out more. Plus take a look at the blogs of Convention bloggers Kirsty, Matt and Lisa.